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When Death Visits The Hotel, Can You Get a Refund?

August 14, 2012 at 3:33 PM | by | ()

Last week was not a good week for New York hotels and now it looks like the bad luck has shifted to Chicago after a 22-year-old woman was found killed in her hotel room at the Whitehall Hotel in the city's Gold Coast neighborhood.

The victim was found dead yesterday morning with a gunshot wound to her head. The homicide investigation is continuing but polices sources told the Chicago Sun-Times that the woman was arrested for prostitution just five days earlier. She also had a prior prostitution arrest in Texas back in April.

While murders and other horrifying deaths happen in hotels somewhat frequently, it doesn't mean that hotel guests are totally cool with staying there afterwards. In this case, the Sun-Times found a couple who had booked a week-long anniversary stay at the Whitehall but who promptly turned around at check-in and left in search of a new place after learning about the murder.

Another family told the Sun-Times they were thankful they were checking out the next day, after having dealt with police taking over the seventh floor for the investigation. We take that to mean the Whitehall wasn't issuing any refunds for the disruption. And that's actually a very common practice.

Remember when Whitney Houston died at the Beverly Hilton? The guests who had to deal with the media and police circus during that time (which was probably a million times worse than the Whitehall's commotion) demanded, and were refused, a refund on their stay.

Although policies differ from hotel to hotel and often times depend on the situation, a refund is usually not in the cards for guests who have the misfortune of staying at a hotel when a murder or another ghastly sort of death occurs. The simple reason? It's not the hotel's fault. In fact, hotel refunds in this scenario are probably much like hotel upgrades--it depends on the manager who's on duty and whether or not they can sympathize with your case.

A hotel may offer to soften the blow with some complimentary amenities or services or even a food and beverage credit but a complete refund back to your credit card is unlikely. If, however, the hotel was at fault for an emergency at the hotel--like a fire or an unsightly (and smelly) sewage explosion--only then may the guests be entitled to a full refund.

So yeah, for a bunch of reasons--emotional and financial--here's hoping no one dies in your hotel during your next stay.

Have you ever asked and received a refund at a hotel during a tragedy like a murder or suicide? Or if you work in a hotel, have you ever issued one of these kinds of refunds? Share your experiences in comments below!

[Photo: AlanCleaver/Flickr]

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